Text: Isaiah 50
Now if you will open your Bibles to the prophet Isaiah, chapter 50. I am going to read the last two verses, 10 and 11:
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourself about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
There is a question asked in verse 10: Who is it among you that feareth the Lord, and that obeys the voice of his servant? It is answered like this: It is he that walketh in darkness and hath no light. Yet while he is walking in darkness without even a glimmer of light to lead him, he trusts in the name of the Lord and stays upon his God.
In the past two or three weeks I have talked with three men that I personally, and many others, would consider some of the greatest Christian men that I know anything about. Some I would classify to be real saints of God. They are men who know God and walk with God, men of tremendous faith and victory in the Lord. Each one of these men, as the conversation became less casual and more serious, gave this testimony: In the past few months I have gone through the dark night of my soul. These conversations were all at different times but they all said the same thing: I thought I was somehow an exception when I would go through a dark night of the soul. These men did not know the other had made any kind of comment like this. The first one said for the past six months there has been a darkness upon my soul that I have never before experienced where I have absolutely no feelings as far as spiritual things were concerned. I would pray and didn’t feel that God was hearing, much less answering. Another man said he wrote a book on the Christian life, and for three months after he wrote that book, he thought he must be lost because of the way he felt.
I was very interested in their conversations because this past week several of us met with people from a publishing company to talk about meeting the needs of people in the light of being filled with the Spirit and coming to know the fullness of Christ, and the abundant life. What materials need to be written and published to meet the needs of the people along these lines? Without exception, there was agreement among the five speakers of us, and the laymen, that there is an inevitable experience in the life of every believer, especially once he makes a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus. That inevitable experience is to go through a dark night of the soul. For so many Christians, it is unexpected and they do not know how to handle it. Something must be said about what to do when the lights go out, and you walk through a dark night of the soul.
It is an inevitable experience for two reasons.
1) The Scriptures teach it.
2) The testimonies of Christians throughout the ages corroborate it.
This is what the prophet Isaiah is talking about, the inevitable experience of a believer walking through a dark night of the soul. As a matter of fact, he says that the way you can tell one who really fears God and really obeys the Lord Jesus is how he acts in the darkness—not how he acts in the light.
I think it would be good to give a definition of darkness. I’ve worked long on this definition, and you will discover it is profound. Don’t miss it. Darkness is absence of light. The picture in these two verses is of a man on a journey. He is walking, and suddenly the light is withdrawn. Darkness rushes in. The Hebrew says it like this: he walked in deep darkness without even a glimmer of light to guide him.
When there is light, you know where you are. When there is light, you can see where you are going. When there is light, you can read the road signs and see how far it is to the end of your journey. When there is light, you can see if there is an obstacle in the road ahead of you. When there is light, you can distinguish friend from foe. When there is light, there is exposure, knowledge, and assurance.
Darkness is when there is no light, when you aren’t sure where you are, when you are not certain where you are going, when you are unable to see any obstacle in the road, and when you are unable to distinguish friend from foe. I repeat that this is the inevitable experience of every believer when there comes upon him a darkness, when there is no real spiritual feeling, when there is no light, no revelation, no knowledge given as to why this is happening or what he is to do next. It seems as though he is enveloped as he is in absolute pitch black darkness.
What do you do when the lights go out? I have three suggestions that the prophet has.
1) Keep on walking.
When the darkness comes upon you, first of all, keep on walking. A number of years ago, I was driving at night, and the lights went out on my car. Immediately I did the safe thing, the right thing, the rational thing. I stopped and pulled over to the side of the road to wait until daylight. That was the smart thing to do.
That is the right thing to do in the physical realm but it is the wrong thing to do in the spiritual realm. Probably the biggest mistake that most of us make is that when the lights go out and we come into this dark night of the soul, we stop dead still. Yet, the prophet is saying that those who trust the Lord, fear God, and obey the Lord, are those that walk in darkness. The Hebrew construction of that seems to say this: it is the characteristic of one of God’s people that he continues to walk in the darkness. When the darkness falls upon him, he doesn’t stop. He keeps on walking. The first thing I would say to you is that when the lights go out, and you find yourself submerged in darkness, don’t stop–keep on walking. Keep on praying even though it feels as though you are not praying. How many of us find it easy to pray when there is that feeling? Somehow in a tangible, real way we seem to be able to see God himself answering our prayer. There is a witness within our Spirit that our prayer is rising to the very throne of God and is greeted there with the smile of God. But I want to ask you what happens when that feeling is gone? When the darkness falls upon your prayer life, do you stop praying to wait for the light to come back? Don’t do it. You continue to pray.
One of the things that impressed me about one of these men that gave his testimony was that during that six months period when he was in darkness, he continued to walk. When it seemed that he could not pray, he continued to pray. When it seemed that God was not answering his prayers, he continued to besiege the throne of grace with prayer after prayer.
Sometimes the dark night falls upon our witnessing life. You may go through a period of time that every time you speak to somebody about Jesus, there is good response and people are saved. But you will go through a period of time where it appears that every word you speak in witnessing falls on deaf ears. What do you do? Keep on walking, keep on witnessing. Continue to do what you did before the lights went out.
Sometimes a person is tithing—giving God what is rightfully his. God seems to be blessing. There are those times when the darkness comes upon your tithing experience. It seems that none of those things that the preacher said would happen when you started tithing are happening. Do you stop tithing? No, you keep on walking in darkness. You continue to do what you did before the lights went out because you must discover that there is something much more important than light.
What do you do when you are trying the best you know to live the way God wants you to live. Perhaps there is a wife who has a lost husband. She has heard that if she will commit herself to the Lordship of Jesus and become the kind of wife that God tells her to be, that God will use this to reach her husband. Yet the moment she does that the darkness seems to fall. The light is withdrawn, and things at home get much worse than they have ever been before. What do you do when the darkness falls upon you? He says you keep on walking. Just keep on walking. That is the first thing.
2) Do not light your own fire.
The second thing is the main thing I want to talk to you about. When the lights go out in your Christian life, and the dark night of the soul comes upon you, keep on walking, and do not light your own fire. I suppose the first reaction of most of us when this darkness and distress come upon us is to somehow light our own fire, and create some light that will substitute for the light of God which has been withdrawn. That’s a mistake. Notice he says he walks in darkness and has no light. This is the man who trusts in God.
Look at verse 11:
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourself about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
God is saying that some make their own fire when the lights go out. They make their own light so that they can see where they are going. God says that is a mistake; when you walk in the light of your own fire, I will see to it that you will lie down in sorrow. The gravest mistake you can make as a Christian is man-made light when you are walking in darkness. Of course, the light here in verse 11 symbolizes man’s efforts, and man-made attempts to fulfill the plan of God. There are several reasons why you ought not to light your own fire, and kindle your own light.
1) The darkness is ordained of God.
A moment ago I gave you that profound illustration about darkness, and you laughed. But there is a reason why you must understand that definition. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. The Gospel of John says the light came into the world, and the darkness comprehended it not. There is no way that the darkness can extinguish the light. Let’s suppose that tonight when it is dark, you are sitting in your room with the lights on. That room is flooded with light. Open the door. Does the darkness come in? Is there a patch of darkness thrown across the floor? Does the darkness chase the light away? No. The darkness will stay outside. You can open the door, pull back the curtains and let all the darkness come in. It will not come in because darkness is simply the absence of light. Darkness cannot chase light. When you remove the light, darkness follows the light. Darkness can only come in when light has been removed. The night does not chase the day away; the day leaves and the night follows. The night is not permitted into our area until the sun has left this area.
Darkness is the absence of light; therefore, if there is a darkness that has come upon your life as you walk with Jesus, it is simply because God has withdrawn that light for a purpose. To make any man-made light will be to frustrate the purpose of God in your life.
A significant statement in the book of Genesis is: the evening and the morning were the first day. Did you ever realize that night is just as much a part of day as is the light? God not only created the light; he created the night. The evening and the morning constitute the day. Do not light your own fire because the darkness is ordained of God.
It is remarkable but there are some things you cannot see except in the darkness. You can’t see them clearly. Look up into the sky. You may be able to vaguely see the moon, and perhaps once in awhile you may be able to spot a star. But you cannot see them clearly until the darkness comes. Then it is a simple matter to look into the sky to see the moon and the stars clearly. The darkness is ordained of God.
You say, preacher, right now I’m going through a dark night of my soul. There are things in my life that I do not understand. It seems as though God has abandoned me. I’ve confessed every sin I know to confess. I’ve done all the things I know to do–pushed all the buttons, pulled all the strings. Nothing seems to work. I’ve rebuked the devil. I’ve done everything you told me to do, and still nothing seems to work. Listen, that darkness is ordained of God. I cannot tell you why. Only God can tell you why. If there is darkness in your life this morning and you are a believer walking in the Spirit, it is because God has withdrawn the light for some reason. If you are a lost person, you are walking in darkness because the devil has blinded your eyes. If you are a believer, and walking in darkness, it is because God has turned off the light for a specific purpose.
2) Man-made light is very defective and dangerous.
We went to a wedding rehearsal Friday, and I had ordered a tuxedo the size that I normally wear – a size 42. After rehearsal they said we had better try on the tuxedos and make sure they fit. I don’t know if they make a bigger size in a tux than they do in a normal suit or not but I disappeared. They had to send out a search party to find me in that coat. I tried on the pants, and they were just fine. They said they would run down to the store and get me another coat. We went down to the store, and they didn’t have another coat just like that one. I had to get a size 39 which I haven’t worn since I was 19 years old. I tried it on in the store, and it seemed to be great. I said I would just hold my breath and not eat any lunch. That afternoon when it came time for the wedding, and I walked out into the sunlight, I saw that the coat and pants did not match at all. I mean they didn’t even come close. I didn’t know there were two shades of black, but there are. It was all right because during the wedding we were going to be in man-made light and nobody would be able to tell that there was any difference in the coat and the pants. The only problem with man-made light is that it is defective and very dangerous.
I think about Abraham. God came to Abraham and said I am going to make of your seed a great nation. I will bless the world from your seed. Then God withdrew the light and gave Abraham a dark night of the soul. Sarah was barren, and there was no child. So Abraham said I will make my own light. The result was Ishmael. We are still today reaping the problems of man-made light. To Abraham it seemed the right thing to do. Even Sarah thought it was the right thing to do at first. But man-made light is deceptive and dangerous.
Moses saw the plight of his people, and his heart was broken. He knew it was not God’s will that his people live in bondage to Egypt. God had made a promise that he was going to give the promised land to his people. But God withdrew the light, and there came a dark night of the soul upon the people of God and Moses. So Moses said he would light his own light, make his own fire. He rose up and slew an Egyptian and set the work of God back forty years.
Israel, mightily delivered finally from the land of Egypt, was brought to the threshold of the promises of God. They looked at Canaan, what God had promised. Suddenly God turned off the light, and the darkness came upon them. They said we will make our own light, light our own fire. They sent out spies into the land. The report came back. Ten of them said we are not able to take the land. Now that was the rational, reasonable conclusion of the spies. Man-made light is deceptive and dangerous. For forty years they wandered in the wilderness of defeat.
When Simon Peter was in the garden of Gethsemane, and the soldiers came to take Jesus, it was not only night physically but it was night spiritually. God had withdrawn the light. Peter couldn’t figure out why God was letting the Messiah be crucified. So Peter said, I will light my own fire and make my own light. He pulled out a sword and tried to fight. That was wrong.
Every great mistake, failure and defeat you’ve had in your Christian life has come because you have tried to make your own light. You have tried these man-made attempts to fulfill the purpose of God. You see, faith and reason are like the two compartments of an hourglass. When I was a little child, I had an hourglass. The sand would be in the bottom. You turn it over and all the sand would fall to the bottom. The one can be full only when the other is empty. The second thing: when God withdraws the light, and you are going through darkness, don’t light your own fire. Make no efforts to help God out. God doesn’t need our help.
3) In the darkness lean on Jesus.
I want you to notice what he says in verse 10:
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
And stay upon his God. The word stay is a Hebrew word that means to lean for support. The root of that word is the word translated staff in Psalm 23, verse 4, where David says, Though I walk (where?) through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they (what? Hold me up is what the word comfort means). They support me. They encourage me. The same root word is found here. When you are walking in darkness and there is not even a glimmer of light, you find Jesus as your staff. When you walk in darkness, you need a staff to feel your way along. Jesus is that staff. That’s one of the things you don’t see in the light. You have to have the darkness to see. That’s Jesus. That’s a remarkable thing about the Lord. Some of us cannot see him in the light; we can only see him in the darkness. Better to be in the dark with Jesus than to be in the light without him
What do I do? Just lean on Jesus and trust him. I am sorry to be repetitious, folks, but every where I turn in this Bible it keeps coming up that God is trying to teach us just one thing. That is that you can trust God, no matter what! When you and I learn that lesson, I’ll move on to something else. I do have another sermon. If you will just come along and learn this, and if I can ever learn it, I’ll move on to point number 2. So. . . he sends the dark that we might discover there is something better than light. It is Jesus.
When the darkness of the soul comes upon you, and there is no feeling, no light, no revelation, no illumination, and you are certain that the fires of hell are licking at your feet, what do you do? You just lean on the Lord and trust him. Just trust him. There is a song. I don’t remember much about it except:
Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus.
When the light of your life grows dim,
still cling to Jesus, sink or swim.
Still at his throne bow the knee
and Israel’s God thy strength shall be.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005